RRC reports heavy contamination at Crane County blowout, source of water pressure still unknown

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Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 9:26 AM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (KOSA) - In an open meeting on Jan. 25, 2022, the Railroad Commission of Texas provided an update on the Crane County blowout that produced a 100 ft. geyser of brine water.

“Preliminary test results that I have been given indicate that the fluid out of this well has a high chloride concentration almost to the point of saturation levels,” said Clay Woodul, the RRC Assistant Director of Field Operations.

Results showed chloride levels at 174,000 ppm. For reference, public drinking water is generally less than 250 ppm.

Results also showed sodium levels at 100,000 ppm, roughly three times as salty as the ocean.

Why there’s so much water pressure, where it’s coming, and where it’s going isn’t known, a conundrum CBS7 reported about in What Lies Beneath. The RRC tells CBS7 it has no evidence the brine fluids from the previously leaking well are connected to a freshwater aquifer.

“We do have an extremely high chloride and sodium flow from this well,” Woodul said. “We also know where the salt formations are in this well. What’s driving that? I’m unable to say at this time.”

The good news is no hydrocarbons were detected in the water.

Woodul also gave a timeline of operation on the well.

The RRC says it first learned of the blowout on Jan. 2 and began to look for the source and cause.

“Contract management issued an emergency purchase order,” Woodul said. “District staff contacted Cudd Well Control to respond to the emergency situation, which was a threat to both the environment and public safety.”

The RRC immediately halted operational injection wells 1.2 miles away from the blowout as a precaution.

On Jan. 10, the RRC identified the well as the CT 112 belonging to Gulf Oil Corp., which was sold to Chevron in 1984. RRC records show Gulf Oil operated on the Waddell Lease from 1925 to 1975. Chevron assumed command of on-site operations the next day.

Over a week later, while excavating the area, Chevron discovered a separate well matching the description of the CT 112, bringing a host of new questions with it. It was determined that the blowout did not come from the CT 112.

“This well was located approximately 10 feet away from the leaking well,” Woodul said. “The Commission’s central records department was contacted to research into commission records in an attempt to identify this well. We have not been able to identify the well, yet.”

The difficulty in finding records for the CT 112 and the mystery well, which Chevron tells CBS7 is going by the name “Meister Ranch Well 1″, isn’t uncommon. Modern RRC recordkeeping didn’t exist when older wells were drilled, so finding where the wells are located and who they belong to is often an exercise in diligence and patience. Records indicate the CT 112 was originally drilled in the 1940s and reentered in the 1950s.

A Chevron camera run into the Meister Ranch Well 1 wellbore found parted cases at 721 ft. Woodul says this depth coincides with the Salado Salt Formation.

Both the RRC and Chevron continue to investigate the source of the water pressure.

“We want to know what’s going on with the well. Chevron wants to know what’s going on with the well,” Woodul said. “Do I have answers for you this morning? No, sir, I don’t.”

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